No one can deny the health benefits of staying outdoors, and everyone agrees that socializing is good for both the brain and body, so activities that can combine both are more than welcome.
One great example is when you organize an outdoor movie night with your friends or family, since it’s the closest thing to being at a cinema without paying a ticket.
However, one key-component to a perfect outdoor movie night is the quality of your video projector, since it can make or break the entire evening.
Unfortunately, not all video projectors are good for use on the outside, and while there isn’t a dedicated category for such video projectors, there are a few specs that make them better at the job than others.
If you don’t have a video projector yet, or you have one that is near the end of its shelf life, then most likely you’re browsing the Internet for new models to buy.
If you plan on using the projector mainly for outdoor activities, continue reading below to see what exactly you need to look for when making your pick.
Additionally, we’ve also included a list of video projectors that we consider to be perfect for outdoor use.
How do I Choose a Good Outdoor Video Projector?
Knowing how to choose the right video projector can be done easily if you take into consideration these variables:
- How often you watch movies outdoors
- Screen brightness and size
- Projector screen
- Audio output
- Power source
- Video source
1. How Often Do You Watch Movies Outdoors?
There are those that watch movies in their backyard once a month, and there are those that do it every other night, and depending on which category you fall in, you should decide whether your setup needs to be organized in a more permanent way or in a way that makes it easy to pack up.
If you’re a hardcore backyard cinephile, a more permanent setup is the right choice for you, although certain preparations need to be made in order to keep the equipment safe, since it will be staying outside 24/7.
Because of this, your main concern is to completely weatherproof your entire setup, including the projector, video source, sound system, projection screen, power outlets, and more.
However, you only really need to store the more bulky or sensitive components, meaning the projector, the video source, and any audio components, since the rest of them can either be easily carried or are resistant by default.
Unfortunately, we are talking about gear that can cost even thousands of dollars when you add up all of the components, so if you want to be completely safe, we advise that you get professional help when installing a permanent projection setup.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you rarely ever do any outside movie nights, carrying all the equipment from inside to your yard and back again may not be such a big deal.
2. Screen Brightness and Size
2.1. Screen Brightness
The second thing that one needs to look for when browsing for a good video projector is the screen brightness and projection size that it can offer, and those of you that already own a video projector for indoor environments will be happy to know that the requirements are pretty much the same.
However, keep in mind that there are differences between projecting a movie in a dark room and doing it outside, even during the night.
For example, moonless nights in an area that is far away from light pollution, like somewhere in the countryside where even the smallest stars are visible at nigh, will feel exactly like a dark room with your curtains pulled, so you won’t need a projector with too much brightness.
On the other hand, if you live in a big city in a place where even nights only seem dim because of ambient light pollution from the local city, you’ll need a really powerful projector.
Lastly, there are the occasional variables that one needs to consider, such as whether or not there are clouds in the sky that make everything even darker, or if there’s a full moon in which case you’ll need to increase the brightness yet again.
That’s why we recommend that as far as screen brightness goes, pick out a video projector that has a light output of 800+ lumens, since this is more than enough to handle dim ambient lighting and provide you with a big enough screen size.
Through this criteria alone we’ve ruled out most pocket-sized or portable video projectors, but then again maybe that wasn’t what you were looking for anywhere.
Note: Corey Majeau from Homedit recommends that you get a video projector that goes well beyond 800 lumens, since most devices usually suffer a loss in image quality when you tune it to the highest brightness setting.
2.2. Screen Size
While screen brightness is indeed a very important factor for the above-mentioned reasons, don’t forget that you mustn’t forgo screen size, since any crummy video projector can cast a an image, even during the day.
However, in order to do so you’ll need the image to be the size of a small PC monitor.
If you’re going to be projecting a movie in your backyard, chances are you’ll probably want some distance between you and the screen, so you’ll need somewhere around 80+ inches in screen size.
2.3. Throw Distance
In simple terms, the throw distance is basically the distance from which your video projector can throw the image onto the screen, and depending on your needs, these are separated into 4 categories:
- Standard throw – lets you throw a 90-inch image at good luminosity over a distant of ~10 feet
- Long throw – great for those with big projector screens, a large audience, and a huge backyard.
- Short throw – great for tight spaces, and an excellent choice in general since your audience will be sitting behind it, and no one will ever block the image if they ever stand up
- Ultra short throw – these projectors can be placed at mere inches to still achieve the same image parameters, although fine-tuning the positioning to get the image quality, angle, and size just right can be a real headache, making them mostly useful for permanent setups
3. Projector Screen
The first thing that anybody does when buying a new projector is to test it out on the first flat white surface that they can see, and this includes walls, hanging bed sheets, the side of a building, or even the side door of a big van (just as long as it is not glossy).
However, there’s a reason why dedicated projector screens exist, and that is usually because they provide the best image quality and lighting available, especially when you buy one that is specifically made to be compatible with your video projector model.
Besides, since this component is very simplistic and has no moving or consumable parts (you just bounce light off of it), it will most likely outlive your video projector a few times over, so investing in a high-quality one is great in the long run, regardless of whether you are looking to have a permanent or a temporary backyard setup.
Speaking of high-quality projector screens, besides the obvious size, the one quality that you’ll need to look for is something called gain, which is something that can increase screen brightness without you actually having to make the projector have a higher screen brightness.
3.1. What Is Gain?
Gain is basically the angle at which the screen reflects the light from the projector back to the audience, and it is very important especially if you’re the type that organizes large movie nights with many people visiting.
As an example, a 1.0 gain screen will reflect light equally in all directions over a 180-degree viewing angle, making it perfect for larger crowds, while gains higher than 1.0 will make the image brighter within that angle and dimmer outside of it, so users that will be on the far-left or far-right of the screen won’t enjoy the movie at the same quality.
3.2. Screen Resolution
Few people know that it isn’t the projector that dictates the image quality it can cast, since the screen also needs to be able to support 4K imagery, so in case you’re browsing or shopping for a new screen, check out whether they meet that criteria or not.
Some more expensive projector screens even support 8K, but then again we already mentioned that screen projectors have a very long life, so might as well go for the best one that you can afford.
3.3. Aspect Ratio
Feature films usually have a 16:9 aspect ratio while older movies and sitcoms go for the TV-like 4:3 so, depending on what you will be watching, make sure you get a screen that can accommodate your needs.
On the other hand, you could always just go for a standard 4:3 screen, and simply project your 16:9 video on it as a smaller image size so it would fit, but then again that would be a waste.
A great movie experience isn’t just about the video, it’s also about the audio as well, and if you and your guests want to enjoy yourselves to full extent, then you’ll need to pay close attention to the audio gear that you have, regardless of what setup you have in your backyard.
For example, many video projectors come with their built-in speakers, but we all know that when you try to cram as many features into a small device, the quality of each tool becomes questionable.
This is the case with the audio speakers in video projectors, since models are getting smaller and smaller, but backyard movie nights require that you have audio speakers that can really put out a bit of boom.
That being said, your best choice in this case is to get a set of reliable outdoor speakers, just as long as you look at what kind of connectivity capabilities your video projector support.
For example, many video projectors don’t come with any type of audio port, since the designers may think that you will be connecting your speakers to the video source instead of the video projector.
As for what type of speaker you should get, presuming that you have both analog or digital audio-out ports or Bluetooth speaker support, you should always go for the wired connection.
This is because while Bluetooth connectivity may offer you more freedom in placing your equipment and fewer cables to deal with, there are major differences between video processing and audio processing on different devices, which can lead to a loss of sync between the two.
Note: Keep in mind that while a powerful audio system makes for a great movie night within the confines of your house, your neighbors may not like it, so keep the volume down to acceptable levels.
Since outdoor video projectors need to have high levels of light output, battery-powered ones won’t cut it, even if they are advertised to last for the entire length of a movie, and this is mostly because many video projectors start dimming the light once their battery levels reach certain thresholds.
More so, smaller video projectors won’t have sufficient brightness for a backyard movie night even when you connect them to AC power, so yet again the options are greatly reduced in numbers.
Note: Power outlets and the great outdoors don’t mix very well, so unless the wiring is the only part of your projection setup that you’ll be bringing in every night, it is best to get a professionally installed outdoor outlet near the equipment location.
Now that you have your projector, your screen, audio system and power source up and running, the only thing that is missing from your setup to get the outdoor movie night started is a video source, and this may be one of the most important components of them all.
There are many ways you can connect a video projector to a video source, including:
- USB drive
- Flash cards
- DVD players
- Streaming stick
- Wi-Fi connection
- Wireless HDMI kits, etc
Note: For those of you that have video projectors that support Wi-Fi connectivity, consider getting a good Wi-Fi extender or a mesh network setup, since your video projector will be outside, far away from your house’s main router.
Which Projector is Best for Me?
In the end, it all boils down to personal preferences, although if you do want to have fun and have your guests enjoy themselves whenever you call them over for a night of movie watching, take in consideration that criteria that we’ve mentioned above.
As mentioned in the beginning of the article, we’ve also put together a small list of video projectors that, in our personal opinion, would be perfect for outdoor movie nights.
These video projectors were chosen and ranked based on their features, how good they are for outdoor projections, their price tag, and more, all so that you can make a more informed decision on your next big purchase.
Which are the Best Outdoor Video Projectors?
- TMY V08 720P Native Projector
- ViewSonic X10-4K Projector
- BenQ TH685 1080p Gaming Projector
- ViewSonic PX701HD
- DR. J Professional HI-04
Let’s see how all these stack up against each other and the market. Below you have short reviews of the best outdoor video projectors:
Topping off out list is is the TMY V08 720P Native Projector, a compact video projector that features a very powerful 6500 lumens light source, and also features full 1080p support, meaning you and your guests will be able to see every detail of a movie at high clarity as well.
The improved 3LCD color calibrating and adjusting technology improves upon the color quality of previous models, bringing more realistic and vivid colors to your audience.
As far as screen size goes, this model can handle anything between a 32-inch and a 220-inch projection before any kind of loss of quality occurs, and it supports both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios, so both feature films and TV sitcoms will be a joy to watch.
The lamp’s lifetime is estimated at somewhere around 60.000 hours, and the minimal screen delay makes it great for films, videos, games, photos, parties, and TV programs. However, what makes this video projector a real bargain is the fact that you’ll also get a 100-inch projection screen in the box, so you no longer need to buy one separately.
It also comes with high-quality built-in speakers, and while they are great for indoors, we still recommend that you get separate ones for your outdoor movie experience.
One of the biggest issues when using a video projector of any kind is the noise that the built-in fan makes, and how much it still manages to heat up, which is something that can be held in enclosed spaces easily. However, the TMY V08 720P Native Projector is built with high-quality materials that reduce the fan noise alone by 80% compared to previous models.
As for connectivity, this model support the following ports:
- USB Headphone port
- TF card slot
Note: The box also comes with one AV and one HDMI cable included.
This wide range of connectivity options make this video projector ideal for pretty much all direct input sources, such as PCs, tablets, TF card, laptops, DVD players, smart phones, game consoles, V Sticks/Boxes, and USB flash drives
The lamp is powerful, it can project over a very large screen, it comes with its own projection screens, and the materials are built to last, so all in all we consider that the TMY V08 720P Native Projector is well-deserving of our #1 place.
You can buy the TMY V08 720P Native Projector from Amazon, since we also noticed that it is frequently on sale, so who knows, maybe you’ll get the best video projector at a real bargain!
The next item on our list is a video projector that emphasizes image quality and a pageant for compact spaces, and while it still makes for a solid outdoor video projector, it is a great investment if you love watching movies indoors as well. This is mostly because of how compact it is, its weight, and the fact that it features a handle, so carrying back and forth between house and backyard will be easier.
Another feature that makes it great for indoors is the presence of high-definition Harman Kardon speakers that will provide you with a true theatre experience.
Boasting crisp Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 resolution (4K), and support for both HDR and 3D content, having this video projector means both you and your audiences will enjoy some of the best image quality that they may have ever experienced, much better than even that from the cinema.
As for image quality, this video projector falls into the short-throw category, allowing it to project a 4K-quality 100-inch screen from as little as 6 feet away.
There is pretty much no type of connectivity that this video projector doesn’t have, since it includes the following:
- USB Type-C
- USB 2.0/3.0
- Voice control via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
- Wi-Fi that allows you to stream content from pretty much any platform, such as Netflix
This wide variety of options make the product ideal for those that value comfort, as well as those that already have a house full of smart devices.
With such a wide range of features, built-in tools and connectivity options, it’s only natural that you’re probably asking yourself why this video projector didn’t take our #1 spot, and the answer is simple:
Not everyone can fully take advantage of all of its features, half of them are pretty useless outdoors (such as the Wi-Fi connectivity, unless you have a Wi-Fi extender), and the price tag is a bit high.
Nonetheless, if you have the budget to overlook these drawbacks, then by all means go ahead and get the ViewSonic X10-4K Projector.
Not everyone who buys video projectors for the outdoors have movies in mind, as some users find it really enjoyable to play video games on the big screen instead, and that is why dedicated gaming video projectors have gained a lot of popularity these last few years.
The BenQ TH685 1080p Gaming Projector is one such device, as it comes with low latency 8.3ms at 1080p/120Hz low input lag, built-in Game Mode and Game Sound Mode that fine-tune audio and images, and their LumiExpert features helps protect your eyes from strain over long gaming sessions.
It is also console-compatible, especially with the latest PS5 at 1080p with 120Hz and 4K 2160p with 60Hz.
Even the non-gaming image quality deserves praise, since it can easily handle 1080p 4K HDR-ready content, it has a brightness output of 3500 ANSI lumen, and has a standard throw distance, being capable of projecting 100-inch images from 8.2 feet away.
Unfortunately, connectivity is something where the BenQ TH685 1080p Gaming Projector falls short, since besides being console-compatible, it only has one HDMI slot.
Fortunately enough, you don’t have to worry about not having a place to connect your speakers or headsets, since the projector comes with an integrated high-quality 5-watt speaker by treVolo that also features a built-in equalizer.
Unfortunately, these speakers won’t be as effective outdoors, so consider buying a good outdoor speaker nonetheless.
If you’re into gaming, you’ll love this product, and if you want to play your games on the side of your house, you can do that just as well, just as long as you remember that your input methods are limited, and that the sound won’t be as crisp as it would inside your living room.
If we’ve triggered your inner gamer with this product, go ahead and check the BenQ TH685 1080p Gaming Projector on Amazon, and maybe take advantage of their seasonal deals.
ViewSonic is known for creating great video projectors, and you can tell that by the fact that this is their second entry on our list, although the features alone make it deserve its spot.
The image quality is great, being 1080p-compatible, and it can project on a screen of up to 300-inches before any quality loss becomes noticeable, effectively making it great for people that can project a movie on the side of their house.
Speaking of which, low-light environments will not be an issue thanks to the 3500 lumens brightness, and the colors won’t be affected either because this projector supports exclusive SuperColor technology and offers a wide color gamut for beautiful image reproduction on all surfaces and in all light levels.
As with our previous entry, the ViewSonic PX701HD also makes for a good gaming projector thanks to the reduced 16ms input latency, allowing you to make quick decisions based on what you see in no time.
One drawback to this projector, or at least it is a drawback if you compare it to some of our top entries, is that it has a lamp life of only 20.000 hours, and while you’ll need a lot of movies and gaming sessions to burn through that, we figured that it was indeed worth mentioning.
Connectivity isn’t an issue with this video projector, since it fully supports streaming services and devices such as Roku, Fire TV stick and Chromecast, and you can connect it to external devices via, USB, VGA, and dual 3D-ready HDMI, the latter which allow the projector to display 3D images directly from 3D Bluray players.
All in all, this device is excellent if you value image quality, high levels of brightness and accurate colors above all else., but don’t forget that it is well-equipped for gaming, or watching TV indoors thanks to the compatibility with streaming devices and the built-in speakers.
If you do decide on getting your own ViewSonic PX701HD, you can go ahead and visit the Amazon page, and you can even check out some of the other ViewSonic products while you’re at it.
Just because the DR. J Professional HI-04 is the last on our list doesn’t mean that it is necessarily bad, since it is already better than all other entries on the market that didn’t even make our list at all.
This model is a complete upgrade compared to the previous DR J video projector, where they improved not only the brightness but also the contrast of the image, and they are also now throwing in a 100-inch projector screen as an added bonus.
The image quality is top-notch, featuring a 1920×1080 supported resolution, an aspect ratio of 4:3 and 16:9, contrast ratio of 2000:1, and a screen size of anywhere between 32 to176 inches with a projector distance of 5 to 15 feet, although it is not recommended that you use this model for things where sharp imagery is needed, such as documents and slideshow presentations.
The materials are also built to last, with a lamp life of well over 40.000 hours, and while it may not have any built-in speakers, we’ve already established that you won’t need them too much anyway, and since it weighs just a bit over 3 pounds, carrying it in and out of the house for movies nights in indoors and outdoors will be a piece of cake.
Connectivity is one of the areas where this particular video projector shines, especially since it can be used to project content from the following devices:
- TV box
- SD Card
- USB Flash Drive
- Blueray DVD player
- Video Game consoles
Thanks to this abundance of options, pretty much any activity where a screen would be normally required can be easily performed using the DR. J Professional HI-04.
Closing off our list of best outdoor video projectors, the DR. J Professional HI-04 is nonetheless a solid choice for anyone that loves mixing the magic of cinema and the fresh air of the great outdoors in a single night, and this is simply thanks to quality of the image output, the wide range of connectivity options available, and the chassis lightweight build.
To buy the DR. J Professional HI-04, simply visit the DR. J Professional Amazon page and check out the price, as well as the other models that they have.
Other Useful Devices for your Outdoor Video Projectors
As we’ve mentioned before, despite the fact that many of the video projectors on our list already have a built-in set of speakers, they just won’t cut it when you take them outside.
More so, those of you that want to minimize cable management might also be going for the models that do offer Wi-Fi connectivity, but you’ll still need the help of a solid Wi-Fi extender if the projector will be far away from the router inside the house.
Whichever the case, we found it appropriate to add an outdoor speaker and a Wi-Fi extender to our list, just so that you don’t waste any time looking for them yourself.
The power of the Wi-Fi extender that you need is heavily dependent on what kind of wireless router you own, where it is positioned within your house, and how far away from the house is the video projector located. Whichever the case, you won’t like going for an extender that will experience frequent signal drops, so we’ll recommend that you get a Wi-fi extender from a well-established manufacturer, Netgear being one of them.
Your movie nights will go smoothly thanks to 1200 MBps peak performance that it offers using dual band and patented FastLane technology, making it ideal not just for video streaming but also for casual gaming.
Setting it up is easy since it is universally compatible with any wireless router, gateway, or cable modem with Wi-Fi, and as far as access to it is concerned, it works well with Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.0, Mozilla Firefox 20 or above, Safari 5.1, or Google Chrome 25.0 browsers or higher, and installing it physically is also easy since all you need as a prerequisite is a free power outlet to supply it with power.
All in all, if you’re looking for a reliable Wi-fi extender that will boost your home signal so that you can enjoy uninterrupted hours of movie projections outside the house, this device is definitely what you need.
You can buy the Netgear Wi-Fi Extender AC1200 from Amazon, and you’ll be happy to know that the official Netgear store there offers models that are even more powerful, although we only recommend you buy them if you really need it, otherwise it’s just throwing money out the window.
Throughout our entire article we tried explaining the importance of outdoor speakers as opposed to the built-in speakers that video projectors come with, and if you have decided on buying such a system, there’s no way that you can do better than the Polk Atrium 4 as far as performance/cost ratio goes.
This outdoor speaker system was designed to be installed anywhere, regardless of whether we are talking about simply putting it on your backyard lawn, by a pool, in the patio or a sunroom, since it is built to not only last, but also deliver the highest quality sound available.
The Polk Atrium delivers wider sound dispersion and a surprisingly powerful bass, all thanks to the 4 1/2-inch mineral filled Dynamic Balance polymer cone and a 3/4-inch anodized aluminum dome tweeter with rubber surround, all while being backed up by 80W of pure power.
Of course, if you have a knack for form and not just function, you’ll enjoy the speaker’s design since it is as sleek as possible without sacrificing sound quality.
Speaking of design, installing this speaker is also easy, making it an ideal choice for those of you that prefer movable setups as opposed to permanent ones. All you need to do is use the one-click speed-lock mounting bracket, and you’ll enjoy an easy anti-slip one-handed installation, granting you a great degree of flexibility in terms of speaker positioning.
Last but not least, you must know that the Polk Atrium 4 is built to last pretty much any weather you throw at it, from extreme heat to heavy rain, especially since they exceed baseline industrial and military specifications for environmental endurance.
Besides, the overall build of these speakers focuses on durability, with gold-plated 5-way binding posts for the most secure, dependable hookups, and aluminum grilles and bracket, with stainless steel and brass hardware means you’ll never see a hint of rust on your speakers.
All in all, if you want an outdoor speaker system that is durable, good-looking and goes well with the rest of your home theatre system, look no further. You can buy the Polk Atrium 4 from Amazon, and they also have other audio equipment as well, just as long as you browse the Polk store.
Best Outdoor Video Projectors: Conclusion
As we’ve mentioned before in the beginning of this article, there are many variables that need to be taken into account when choosing a good video projector for watching movies outdoors, and that is why our list contains such a wide variety of products.
Some of you might be looking for a video projector that is great for gaming, while others want a video projector that offers the best possible image quality. On the other hand, some users may be looking for projectors that have as many features built into them as possible, while others are looking for the most budget-friendly solution yet.
Whichever the case, one thing is certain: the perfect video projector for you is definitely out there, and in the end, it doesn’t matter if an image is a bit grainier than you’d like, or if the fan is a bit noisy, just as long as you and your friends and family are having a good time in the end.
What video projectors do you use to watch movies outdoors? Let us know what models you think deserve a place on our list by leaving us your feedback in the comments section below, and we’ll look over your suggestions and add them in our list as soon as possible.